2021 Alumnus of the Year
- June 9, 2021
When Gerald Edmonds was considering college, his mom, who had taken correspondence courses from Moody Bible Institute, told him, “Just go to Moody for one year. That’s all I’m asking you to do.”
He honored his mom’s request and ended up earning his Bachelor of Music in 1957 and coming back years later as a music professor. “How smart she was,” he recalled at the award presentation, shown by video on Alumni Day, February 5.
Edmonds arrived at Moody in 1954 and enjoyed music ministry with the Gospelaires and Kings Crusaders. He also joined the Moody Chorale because of a front-row singer he admired named Patty Manges ’57. They were married in 1958, shortly after a nine-week United Kingdom/European tour, led by influential Chorale conductor Donald Hustad. The tour opened Edmonds’ eyes to how music could be used to spread the gospel around the world.
Edmonds earned a Master of Music in Composition from the American Conservatory of Music in 1964 and joined Moody’s music faculty in 1969. A year later he organized the Moody Concert Band and conducted it until 1978 when he became conductor of the Moody Chorale, a position he held until 2010.
“He was like a pastor to us as a Chorale and as students,” says Tim Stafford ’01, who served with Edmonds at the Moody Church before succeeding him as pastor of music ministry. “He would notice things in our lives and would point us toward our relationship with God. He was a very effective, very discerning teacher and leader spiritually.”
Edmonds taught music theory, composition, conducting and church music courses, and led the Chorale all over the United States and overseas—Great Britain, Europe, Australia, Russia, South Korea, Israel, Mexico, Guatemala, Sweden and Norway, and South Africa.
For years he directed Candlelight Carols, Handel’s Messiah, and did countless orchestrations and arrangements for Moody. One of them, “Holy, Holy, Holy,” was sung at just about every Chorale concert.
Edmonds also orchestrated music for Moody’s 100th-anniversary album in 1984, writing out instrumental parts in the airplane en route to the recording session with members from the London Philharmonic and London Symphony Orchestra. In 1987 he was given the Faculty Citation Award, and in 2012 Moody awarded him an honorary doctorate.
“From the start, Dad’s work at MBI was never work,” says Debbie (Edmonds) Hollinger, the oldest of two daughters. “He felt called to the ministry at Moody. Engaging with students on every level was a joy.”
Elsa Wiese ’11, who traveled on tours and served as Edmonds’ secretary for two years, remembers how “he instilled integrity, a desire to worship, a desire for excellence, and a focus on eternity. He really was my mentor, and then now my friend. He’s been a father figure in many ways.”
Edmonds’ faith has remained strong through health issues and the death of their youngest daughter, Dr. Michelle (Edmonds ’98) Johnson, who passed away from cancer in 2019.
Edmonds served on Moody’s music faculty for 40 years, and also served as minister of music in various churches, including the Moody Church from 1982 to 2009. “My greatest joy was building relationships with the students and doing the work God had placed before me,” he says. “The glory goes to God.”